Monday, May 31, 2010

May 31, 2010

Last Tuesday our devotional speaker was Elder D. Todd Christofferson. He gave a really great talk. He told us that the call to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to the whole world is the call of the apostles, and since there are only fifteen of them and about three hundred seventies, they call us to be their companions in this sacred calling. That's why I have the same title as they do. That's why I'm authorized to wear the name of Jesus Christ on my chest. We've been called to fulfill an apostolic duty, and it's probably the most important work on the earth; we're participating in the salvation of human souls. Once again, after a talk like that from an apostle, I should have felt overwhelmed and unable to ever fulfill such a calling, but the Spirit told me there is nothing to fear, and that I really can do this with the Lord's help.

Which reminds me, every Saturday we have a TA--I can't remember what that stands for, but we spend all week preparing for it and on Saturday we do some kind of scenario in Chinese, like a dinner appointment or contacting in a park or knocking on doors, and then teach a lesson in English (though starting this next Saturday, that too will be in Chinese. Yikes!). During the lesson part, we were teaching the guy about the word of wisdom and he wanted to know why tea was so bad for us (a question I'm sure lots of Taiwanese will have) and I suddenly got a very strong prompting to promise him that if he tried to live the word of wisdom, his school studies would improve. Now, he was a returned missionary and a volunteer, but that was a really special experience for me. I don't think I've ever before been strongly prompted to say something like that.

But the thing they often tell us at the MTC is that as Jesus Christ's representatives, the things we say and do will be justified by the Lord if we are worthy to have the Spirit with us at all times. One teacher shared an experience where his companion promised all these seemingly impossible blessings from paying tithing, they prayed super hard all week, and the next week the blessings had all come true--the family suddenly didn't owe one of their bills, the daughter got a 10% raise out of the blue. If we have the Spirit, the Lord basically gives us the right and power to in every sense act in his name.

Other than that, it's pretty weird that the "older" group of missionaries is leaving this week. Starting next Wednesday, we're the old group. I really don't feel like I know as much Chinese as I thought our older group knew when we came in. But we'll just try our best to be good examples, speaking our language and acting like good servants of the Lord.
Today the temple was closed for Memorial Day, which made me a little bummed, but we have plenty more weeks in which to go to the temple.

Once more, I'll bear my testimony that this is God's work and He is helping us do it! Please keep reading your scriptures personally and together, because they truly contain treasures. I love all of you, and I'll talk to you next week.

Wo ai nimen! (wo eye knee mun) (I love y'all)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

May 24, 2010

Today's been another typical p-day. Dad pretty much got it right--Temple, personal and companion study, eating, laundry, and letters are our whole day until 6:00 pm. Today I did initiatories instead of an endowment session, because they pretty much begged me and my companion to help.

Oh, and just so's you all know, I was called to be my district leader yesterday. Please don't think of that as meaning I'm a super-great missionary. I mean, I try, but I think the Lord knows better than I do. Maybe I need the leadership experience or something. But yeah, I've been doing some praying, asking Him to help me fulfill this calling. It's a lot of extra responsibility--lots more meetings on Sunday, getting the mail for my district, interviewing the senior companions. I'm a little nervous, but I have faith that if the Lord wants me to do this for Him and for my district, He'll help me do it.

The language is coming along, too. I'm finding it easier every day to learn vocabulary and to memorize scriptures. Dad, I've been thinking about what the Bishop said about the priests, and I really want them to know that the Lord will help them fulfill any calling He gives. I just don't want anybody to miss out on this miracle they call a mission because they're afraid.

I'm trying to think of more to say...every day is pretty durn near the same as the next around here. I got a letter from President Hoer today, just asking me to send him my Chinese surname so that they could make my name tag. It's weird they're doing that so early. Right now is the last week for the "older" group of missionaries. We'll be getting a batch of greenies next Wednesday, I believe.

Well everyone, my time is short. I wish I could think of more to say. I don't want you to be disappointed at this short letter, but like I said, there's not a whole lot to say. I love you all and I hope you all have a great week.


Monday, May 17, 2010

May 17, 2010

Greetings once again from the MTC! It's hard to believe it's p-day again. And we're starting week weird is that? I can't remember if I told you this, but our companionship was assigned one of the older companionships to be our "mentors," and one of those elders is convinced that the MTC is actually Narnia, and that's why the days seem really long but the weeks go by so fast. I dunno if I believe it, but that could explain why we have water pressure issues in the showers sometimes...Narnia doesn't have indoor plumbing. (Another funny story about the showers--one of them barely trickles a little water out when you turn it on all the way; the missionaries have affectionately named it the "Catholic Baptism")

Our zone, which lives on one floor of one of the residence halls, has probably around 30-40 missionaries. There are actually quite a few going to Taichung, but there are some going to places like New Zealand, Toronto, and New York, all speaking Mandarin Chinese. In my district, there are six elders, three going to Taichung and three to Taipei.

But anyways, now for something you'll all be crazy jealous about: last Tuesday night's devotional speaker was Jeffrey R. Holland!!! Oh man, I love hearing that man speak. He went like half an hour overtime, but I sure didn't care. He's so funny--I can't share all the things he said, cuz every line was quotable, but he talked to us at length about us not having the right to come home from our missions and go inactive. He said if he ever met us after our missions and we weren't active he'd punch us in the nose. Then he hesitated and said "That doesn't sound very apostolic, does it? OK, I wouldn't punch you in the nose, but I sure wouldn't be very happy with you." The best part, though, was that he told us how they expected us to be just about perfect.

After his talk, the Spirit was burning within me so strongly I felt like there was nothing in the world I couldn't do. Remember the hymn "I Know My Father Lives," there's a line that says "the Spirit whispers this to me and tells me that I can." It's the truth--remember Nephi, who said that the Lord won't command us to do anything unless he will help us do it. I know he's helped me in learning Chinese. Actually, on Thursday night he helped me memorize Ether 12:6 in Chinese. In 20 minutes. The gift of tongues is real.

I'm down to my last five minutes. I'm trying to think if there's anything I need to tell you that I haven't yet. Um...well, yesterday my companion forgot his suit at the dry cleaner, so he had to borrow a jacket from one of the zone leaders, Elder Tito. My companion's tall and skinny, and Elder Tito is Samoan. Yeah, it was hilarious. I took a picture of it. Looks like he's wearing a trench coat.

Um, so I better close. I love you all and I always look forward to your letters. Tell me about anything that happens. I never think anything that goes on in your lives is boring.

Love you all,

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

May 10, 2010

It's hard to believe another week has gone by. I heard an older missionary say the days go by slowly but the weeks fly by. That's very true from what I've now experienced. On Saturday we had a for-reals practice contacting people in a park (in Chinese) and teaching the first lesson (in English). I thought it went really well. Obviously there are lots of things we can improve on, but I felt the spirit really strongly all throughout the lesson. And my language skills are improving very quickly with lots of help from the Lord (read that sentence: with the Lord doing most of the work and me doing all I can). I've memorized the First Vision in Chinese and I'm working on Alma 32:21 now.

Well, let's see. What other boring, everyday experience can I bore you with? I don't think I told you last time, but since we're the *ahem* "advanced" district, they're having us learn how to read about 200 characters from the Book of Mormon. That's really exciting for me, because that way I might be able to actually read from the scriptures and not just say "So could you read this for me? I surely hope it's the right one, cuz I don't know what it says."

Last Tuesday we had a devotional with a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy. It was pretty cool; he talked about how our church just makes sense if you think about all the aspects of it. I've thought of that sometimes, but it was fun to hear a General Authority say it.

Sundays are really spiritual here, but they're also so busy. We have about four or five separate meetings to go to, but they're all very spiritual. Dill, I can't remember how many prayers you said a missionary said per day, but I think it wasn't high enough. I've counted upward of 13 or 14 on some days.

….. One of the teachers told us that in June they have Mission President Training at the MTC, so General Authorities just walk around the halls and sit by us at mealtimes. …..

Time is short, and I must not procrastinate the day of my sending. …..

Love you all!

Zai jian!
(dzai jeean) (Bye!)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Monday May 3, 2010

Hey everyone!

I hope you have all been waiting anxiously to know when my p-day is. If you haven't, don't tell me...but now you know it's Monday, so you can expect to hear from me every Monday afternoon for the next eleven weeks.


Boy, you guys would not believe what an awesome place the MTC is. The Spirit is so strong it's almost tangible. I'm learning a ton in such a short time. And I want all of you to know that I know this is not because I'm good at learning Chinese. The Lord said His yoke is easy and His burden light. You know why that's the case? It's not because you're lifting a lighter burden, but because the Lord is doing most of the lifting. We do all we can and He takes care of all the rest. I know that to be true--if any of you ever feel like you're facing an impossible task, like I did at first, turn to the Lord in humility and He will lead you by the hand through your trials.

Anyway, I am really loving the MTC. I'm just sitting here at a computer waiting for my laundry to be done. My first companion is Elder Neil Boyer, or Ye Zhanglao. In the last week, we've grown to be fairly good friends; I know the Lord will help us get even closer as we do His work. He's really good at Chinese--he had 3 years in high school and lived in China for a month. Actually, our whole district is the---ahem---"advanced" district, i.e. the ones who have had some Chinese experience. I and my one year felt a little out of place the first day, but we're all pretty much beginners in church language. In only three days, our teachers, Sister Tanner and Brother Hodges, taught us how to pray, bear our testimonies, and recite our missionary purpose in Chinese. That's what I meant when I said the Lord had to be helping me.

The food's pretty good here too. It's a step above cafeteria food, but still not home cooked. It's all I can eat, though. And don't worry, I'm eating fruits and salads and all of that as well. We have all kinds of stuff--chicken cordon bleu, fish n' chips, Teriyaki Stix rice bowls, and--just for Dillon--as much Captain Crunch or Marshmallow Mayteys as we want to go with or in place of our hot breakfast.

Today we went to the Provo Temple, and that was a really awesome experience. We get to go every p-day at around 9:00. Then we went back to the residence hall and took a power nap, which felt glorious. :) As for my Sunday, it was really spiritual; we had lots of meetings, but they were all so worth it. We had mission (stake) conference for two hours, Fast and Testimony meeting for one hour, then an evening fireside. After the fireside we got to watch the Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration movie. Like I said, the whole day was a great spiritual feast.

Anyway, my red timer is telling me to hurry and wrap things up. I love all of you and I want to hear what's going on there! I miss you, but I know that I'm doing what the Lord wants me to do, and therefore I'm not feeling homesick. Keep me up to date on what's going on.

Love you all very much!
Elder Durrant
or Ruan Zhanglao (Zhanglao means Elder)